Monday, May 26, 2008

CN Reinvents Itself

Or at least gives it the old college try:

They're hoping to stanch the flow of young viewers leaving the network for Disney and Nick, but they're also trying to rebuild the net as "the home for boys," in Snyder's words (though he quickly adds that he hopes the female aud sticks around for shows like Cartoon's new comedy "Chowder").

"I think in general the network has a strength in fantasy and adventure, and it has a strength with boys," says Sorcher. "You'll see us capitalizing on that -- (upcoming show) 'Star Wars' is a great indicator of where all this is going." ...

It's no secret that Cartoon Network has issues. Its market share has been declining for a couple of years, and as Variety notes: "In April, total-day ratings were down by double-digit percentages in the key demos of kids 2-11, kids 6-11 and kids 9-14."

To date, CN's counter-moves to its rivals have fallen flat. (The manuevers it made going after Disney Channels live-action audience with live product of its own went mostly nowhere. I don't understand live-action on a cabler called "Cartoon Network" anyway, but it's probably me being behind the times.)

It's painful to watch a high-flying outfit slide back toward terra firma, but it happens to every animation studio at one time or another ( just look at Disney's up and downs over eighty years; it's been on the verge of bankruptcy a couple of times).

Part of the Cartoon Net's trouble is the nature of television itself: For thirty-five years the territory was divided up into three, then four networks that commanded huge audiences, and those large tracts of broadcast real estate made good money. But home entertainment now evolves at warp speed, with hundreds of cable channels and an infinite number of internet sites on the ubiquitous web. And all this subdividing insures that the properties get slice and diced into tiny, ferociously competitive lots.

All the more reason to have a robust development department to fuel future growth. Maybe CN's oncoming shorts program will fill all or part of that bill ...

(Toon Zone's Cartoon Network forum kicks around the ramifications of the Variety article here.)


Anonymous said...

I'd contend that the nature of television itself hasn't fragmented, but merged into huge ineffective entities known as the "corporate studio". For decades animated shows were created at dozens of different animation houses scattered around the city(if not the country). Then media deregulation came along in the late nineties and the big companies bought everything up because if they didn't own it, then dammit they weren't going to show it(this is the event that put small independently owned shops like Jim Henson studios out in the cold).

For a while CN farmed out shows to a lot of different studios as well as producing in their own, but maybe the executives who worked as liasons complained about the hardships of travel because the network changed its policy and ended outsourcing shows over a five or so year period. They've worked to bring all production under their own roof and the quality of the shows(and ratings) dropped simultaneously with every move in this direction
*Meanwhile in Atlanta the best thing on CN, Adult Swim, has reached its level of inventiveness from the start by operating out of a small building away from the Turner compound and fostering a different, electric, atmosphere.

I understand them not wanting to pay the overhead of outsourcing show production to small studios, but it doesn't make a lot of sense when the quality and variety of programming brought in substantially higher ratings.

There has been a bland, homogenized, feel to their cartoons since they started only producing shows from their studios on 3rd Street. The ratings reflect that. From a larger standpoint, I wish all of these big houses would finance some work at smaller studios - hell, look at advertising. There are a gazillion vibrant, super creative, small advertising firms out there that are all producing the best spots... and they are all owned by the big firms.

The big advertising firms are smart enough to give up control for creativity. Leon Schlessinger was smart in that way as well. Sometimes i think the television executives are the dumbest people on the planet.

Anonymous said...

Why aim at boys when they should aim at QUALITY. Putting more dreck like the star wars and clone wars shows on is ridiculous, and the live action attempts even worse.

Steve Hulett said...

For decades animated shows were created at dozens of different animation houses scattered around the city(if not the country).

Actually, for years animation was mainly controlled by a few large tv animation shops.

Does the name "Hanna-Barbera" ring any bells? They were far and away the dominant production house from the sixties to the eighties.

Others in the mix were Filmation (CBS's cartoon studio of choice), Ruby-Spears, Marvel, several others. And of course Disney TV Animation was a huge presence at the end of the eighties and nineties.

I understand the place is still flourishing today ...

Anonymous said...

"Does the name "Hanna-Barbera" ring any bells?...
Others in the mix were Filmation (CBS's cartoon studio of choice), Ruby-Spears, Marvel, several others"

Thats quite a lot isn't it? Like i said, there were more studios years ago before media was deregulated.

Anonymous said...

I've heard for months now that Cartoon Network is putting together a team for a shorts program but never do I hear about any job openings for it. Have they just delayed it?

Anonymous said...

I've never gotten it. Live action Cartoon Network now?

& why is there Power Rangers on Toon Disney?
Why is Pinky & the Brain on Toon Disney?

::shrugs:: there's reasons for everything. Just not necessarily good ones...

Anonymous said...

Well, if Time Warner wants to compete directly with Nick and Disney, they need to decide if Cartoon Network is in the kids television business. If they want to compete with every other niche cable network, then they need to throw a few reality shows on the air and see what sticks. Either way, they can worry about changing the network letterhead after the ratings come in.

And that's reality.

Anonymous said...

"If they want to compete with every other niche cable network, then they need to throw a few reality shows on the air and see what sticks."

...and that would be just continuing their failed policy of following in the footsteps of other networks. The "johnny come lately" strategy is a sure fire recipe for 3rd place every time(or haven't you watched that networks moves over the last 8 years).
Quality reaps good ratings, not live action per se.

Anonymous said...

Time/Warner needs to get their collective heads out of their butts regarding the stagnancy of both the Warner and Cartoon Network branches of animation.

They got rid of Kids WB, so they should use the Warner Bros arm for direct-to-videos. Which they've started doing, but they should go full-bore into it.

Cartoon Network should be for shows that had Kids WB not been tossed out like a bunch of old, used kitty litter, they would've been shown on that channel.

Bring back Yogi Bear, fer feck's sake. They let John K piss all over it; why don't they bring it back with someone in charge who won't gross it up? Or how about the Jetsons? Or Snagglepuss? Jeezus, they could mine the HB for years and come up with new, FUNNY presentations of those characters and make some damn MONEY again.

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